Touring production seen at the Bristol Hippodrome.
Dreamgirls is the glitter bomb we all need on a damp, dark January evening. Directed by Casey Nicholaw, Dreamgirls follows the indomitable Effie White, one third of girl group the Dreamettes, as she attempts to claw her way to the big time. The girls land a gig as backing singers to R&B sensation Jimmy Early but what follows is bitter betrayal and heartache for Effie as her lover, and the group’s manager, Curtis, moves his new girlfriend Deena front and centre, leaving Effie to play back-up.
Nicole Raquel Dennis leads as Effie White, and her voice is every bit the powerhouse you want it to be. As her fellow dreamgirls, Natalie Kassanga and Paige Peddie also deliver vocally. It’s Brandon Lee Sears who stole the show for me, though, as Jimmy Early. His voice is outstanding and the energy he brings to the whole show lifts it to another level. His chemistry with Peddie feels palpable to the audience and I was sorry there wasn’t more scenes of the two of them together. His dance moves are also incredible; the man must surely practise contortion in his spare time.
Effie White is a complex character; bullish, determined but with a vulnerability to her, Dennis did a good job at portraying this on stage. I’ve never seen the show before, and assumed Effie is the one I should be rooting for but at times I found myself wanting to shake her and tell her to grow the hell up. That Dennis can get all this across and yet still deliver a softness and openness to the character is testament to her skills as an actress, and also the supporting cast who fulfil their roles with sufficient aplomb that she is able to really evolve the character on stage.
Lighting, set design and costume all combine to again elevate this production; it really does dazzle thanks to these elements. Add in the strong vocal performances, slick numbers and endearing characterisation, and Dreamgirls delivers the perfect package. Emotional, raw and fierce, yet heart-warming and joyful, Dreamgirls is definitely one to catch.